The Pentagon is anticipating that many of its major defense acquisition programs (MDAPs) will be delayed by about three months due to facility closures, supply chain issues and other impacts from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the department’s acquisition czar said April 20.
“We believe there will be a three-month impact that we can see right now,” Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said in a Monday teleconference. “We’re looking at schedule delays and inefficiencies and so forth. … And we are just now looking at key milestones that might be impacted.”
Lord highlighted that the department is seeing slowdowns in the shipyard “to an extent,” but that aviation remains the “most highly impacted sector we have right now.” She also mentioned the small space launch industry as an area of concern.
Shipyards including General Dynamics [GD] Bath Iron Works (BIW) have experienced workforce shortages since the pandemic began, while Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] has staggered shift schedules among other efforts to limit potential exposure to the virus. The Navy has awarded several contracts ahead of schedule to help companies work through the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Boeing [BA] facilities across the country have been shuttered for weeks at a time. The company’s production facilities in the Puget Sound area of Washington state – where the Air Force’s KC-46A Pegasus tanker and the Navy’s P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft are built – reopened last week after being shuttered for three weeks. The company announced Friday it was reopening its Philadelphia-area facilities where the Army’s CH-47 Chinook helicopter is built, after over two weeks of being closed.
On the smallsat front, Rocket Lab delayed a March 30 scheduled launch containing payloads from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and NASA from its launchpad in New Zealand, in response to guidance from the New Zealand government on COVID-19.
The Pentagon plans to use $250 million to support critical suppliers during the pandemic, including machine tools, aircraft supply chain illumination, chemical-biological resources, directed energy technologies, radar, munitions and missiles, shipbuilding, space, soldier systems and ground systems, Lord added. Those funds come out of the $1 billion the department received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The remaining $750 million will procure medical supplies, she noted.
Lord noted that she expects the department to reimburse industry for payments to employees under Section 3610 of the CARES act, likely with “billions” of dollars stemming from funding to be passed in the bill’s next incarnation. Lawmakers are currently developing the legislation for that bill, and Lord said the Pentagon is working with the Office of Management and Budget to determine the funding amount.